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Cat in can prank goes way of tin garbage cans
Lester Pulsen has a laugh after being awarded a Public Works proclamation by Solid Waste Supervisor Rexie LeStrange. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

It was a simple prank.

It didn’t require a lot of planning and in the end it more than likely resulted in nothing more than a startled garbage collector.

But that doesn’t mean that Jeff Santos – a 27-year veteran of the City of Manteca’s solid waste division – enjoyed throwing open the lid to a resident’s trash can and seeing a cat that spent the previous eight hours cooped up inside.

“People would do that, and after that long those animals weren’t happy,” Santos said with a chuckle. “I didn’t see a whole lot of strange stuff over the years, but people would do things like that on occasion to get a laugh. It’s funny but it’s also not so funny when you’re the guy on the receiving end and you have to throw the lid back on.”

The department honored its trash collectors Monday afternoon with an in-office party celebrating National Garbage Man Day – a chance for those that put out their green, brown and blue toters every week to stop and say thanks to the men who take the contents away to the land of milk of honey.

Or coffee grinds and banana peels. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.

New department hire Joe Logan got the chance to see how tight the crew really is – supervisor Rexie LeStrange made it a point to let her workers know that she doesn’t like using solid waste “division” and would rather insert the word “team” – on the day that he finally graduated to driving his own route alone.

And it’s not likely that Logan will see the same kind of craziness that he witnessed when serving the 180,000 residents of the Southern California community of Ontario.

“It was a big city, and there were things that you saw and had happen that you don’t hear about. I actually dumped a homeless person one time,” said Logan, who spent eight years in the garbage business in Southern California before moving up north in March. “They like to line the bottom of the dumpster with cardboard and I pulled up with a front loader and picked it up and he didn’t try and come out until it was too late.

“You hear about people and animals and weapons and drugs. There are some crazy stories out there man that I don’t think I’ll have to run into here in Manteca.”

Lester Pulsen has spent the last nine years of his career as a Manteca refuse collector, and his experiences along the route have been mild – having to deal only with overflowing cans and dumpsters and the occasional woman in a nightgown that runs out when she forgets to put out the garbage and hears the truck.

It’s the sense of service and the freedom that the job affords that keep him going, and knowing that he’s out doing honest work makes it easy for Pulsen to lay his head on his pillow at night.

“I like being out in the public and not having anybody looking over my shoulder,” he said. “You have a job to get done and you just get it done. That’s it. And I like that part of it.”